Wednesday, August 10, 2011

18th Century Style Chisels: First Two Complete

Just finished my first 2 chisels in what I hope will eventually grow to a set of 8 to 10. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am basing these chisels on the firmer chisels in the Benjamin Seaton Chest. These first two are a 1" and a 3/4" chisel. Both chisels have pretty much identical measurements aside from the width. The blades are 3 3/4" from tip to shoulder, and 6" to the bolster. They taper from about a shy 3/16" at the bolster to a very thin 1/16" at the start of the cannel. According to the book, The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, bevel edge chisels were did not show up on the Sheffield list until 1870. That is why these chisels taper so thin at the tip. This style chisel was made for trimming dovetail sockets and delicate work, while thicker firmers were used for heavier work. Just to give you an idea of how certain tools are for certain specific jobs, there were 61 chisels and gouges listed in the Seaton Chest inventory. Quite a collection by modern standards.

The beech handles are 5 1/2" long, 1 1/4" wide, and 1" thick at the end, tapering down to be flush with the bolster. These measurements, as well as the measurements of the steel, are the same as these size chisels in the Seaton Chest. The corners are knocked off to create an octagonal shape to the handle that is both traditional as well as very comfortable. The handles is finished with multiple coats of Formby's Tung Oil. They feel really good in the hand.

As these will be used mostly for paring and not receive a lot of heavy beating, I sharpened these to a 20* bevel. Though not as sturdy as a typical 25* bevel, the lower angle makes for a sharper edge. Both these chisels sharpened up very nicely and are extremely sharp. Time will tell how the edges hold up.

These chisels turned out just as I'd hoped aesthetically. I really like the look of the beech handles. Very traditional, at least for English tools. I hope to get a chance to put them to wood this weekend and see how they preform. I'll let you know.

Thanks to George Wilson, Mike Siemsen, Dean Jansa, and Bob Rozaieski for their advice on tapering and heat treating the steel.

A picture to show the difference between a modern premium chisel and the style in the Seaton Chest.


Dean Jansa said...

Nice work! They look great.

baconj said...

Thanks Dean. And thanks for sharing you knowledge and experience.

Bob Rozaieski said...

Simply fantastic!

Steve Branam said...

These look gorgeous! Are the bolsters brazed or soldered, or just loose, relying on the geometry to keep them in place? Pretty soon you'll have a shop full of tools made only by you!

Are you going to try some oval bolstered mortise chisels (pig-stickers)?

baconj said...

Thanks Steve! The bolsters are not brazed or soldered. The opening is just filed tight to slide down to a pre-determined position on the chisel neck, with the taper of the neck stopping them and wedging them in place at the desired location. Once the handles are pounded onto the tangs, the bolsters are locked in place with no where to go.

No plans for mortise chisels. I have a 1/4" and 5/16" Ray Iles that I love. I want to finish a set of these, probably 8 to 10, and then do some saws. Lots of saws. I think I have a problem. :) There really is something special about building something with tools that you made yourself. Especially when they preform well.

Keep up the great work on your blog. It's incredibly well done and is a valuable source of information for anyone interested in hand tool woodworking. If anyone ever ask me about getting started in hand tool woodworking, I'm going to refer them to your blog and Bob Rozaieski's. Again, great work.